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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Edoardo Nevola

L'amore più bello (L'uomo dai calzoni corti), 1958
German poster of the movie
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the Romanian version)

Do you remember the children playing in the Italian movies of the fifties? We were their age, the generation of Baby boomers, and they raised up together with us, to be today as old as we are.

Edoardo Nevola, born in Rome in 1948, was one of these bambini dei filmi degli anni '50.

When L'amore più bello (known also as L'uomo dai calzoni corti) came out in 1958, Edoardo Nevola was already known from some previous films, like Il ferroviere. A movie made by Pietro Germi in 1956. I didn't have the chance to watch it. The director was also playing in the main role: a train engineer defeated by life, seeking refuge in alcohol. His son (Edoardo Nevola), innocent and faithful presence, would determine the father to give up drunkenness. That's melodrama, you'd say, and of course it is, only the Neorealists didn't fear melodrama. And beginning with Ladri di biciclette (that one with another child actor, Enzo Staiola), Italian filmmakers had learned the lesson of putting the main hero and his child in counterpoint. The child who believes in his father, who stands by him always, who cannot believe that his father could have any weaknesses - and when witnessing such a weakness, taking it with dignity, standing further by his father.

L'uomo dai calzoni corti: I watched it long time ago, a few years after its release. This time the personage played by Edoardo Nevola has no father, like in Il ferroviere, only mother, and she has abandoned him. He is raised in an orphanage in Sicily. When being told that his mother lives in Naples, the kid decides to go after her. He runs away from the orphanage and a chain of picaresque situations follows. The kid arrives at Naples to find out that his mother has moved to Milan. He is heading to Milan and will meet on his way all kind of people. An old puppeteer (Eduardo de Filippo) convinces the boy to stay with him and be of help at the puppet theater (it happens that the show is about a remorseful mother that has abandoned her child).  He will leave after some time, to go on with his journey. A family of American tourists finds the kid on the road and offers him a new jacket, a thief steals it from the boy, another thief (Memmo Carotenuto) gets a liking for the kid and decides to take care of him. The police will arrest the thief after some time and the kid is again alone. A truck driver (Francisco Rabal) picks him up and brings the kid home. They don't have children, the driver and his wife, would it be this bambino the chance of their life? The kid will find the force to leave them, and go further to find his mother.

No, his mother doesnt't live in Milan anymore, she moved to Venice. The kid arrives at Venice and eventually he is in front of the mother. Her first reaction is to close him the door. She is now married and has a daughter, the kid is for her closed history. And the boy takes the blow with great dignity, as maybe children only know how to do it.

The mother (Alida Valli, I've seen her only in this movie, she was indeed a great beauty) will come to her senses and invite the kid inside. Only he is now reticent and notices that they have their big worries at home. The husband comes from work in the evening, very tired and grumbling on anything. The mother is telling him about the boy and that she intends to leave with him. If the boy was able to cross Italy to come to her, she will stand by him now. Are you crazy? asks the husband who hadn't known anything about the child till then.

The kid hears the discussion and leaves alone to go to the police and surrender as an orphanage run out. But now it's the husband running after him and taking him back. From now on he will have a father and a mother.

Of course, the whole is a too big melodrama, of course, the theme from Cuore is used here and thickened a lot, but, beyond all this, the boy is so genuine, so convinced and so convincing, that makes you fully immerse in his story.

Also this movie has an interesting structure, the main theme replicating now and then in the various episodes that take place (like in the puppet show, and not only: in another part of the movie, a girl runs away from home with her lover - maybe such was the mother's story, too). And also it's a splendid road movie, a picaresque tableau of Italy of the fifties, at the peak of Neorealism, country and movies together.


Here is another movie with Edoardo Nevola, from 1959: La Cento Chilometri.

Every year a marathon is organized in Rome and the winner has been for a long time the illustrious athlete Tocacelli (Massimo Girotti). His child is always near him, running on a bicycle, giving him water with sugar when need is, giving him a towel to wipe the sweat, and generally taking care of the runner. It's as simple as that, the kid is his father coach! (Or so he believes, but he's very determined). There is a whole world around them, a young runner who meets during the race his love from high school, an old and fat lawyer (Mario Carotenuto) who came to the marathon to show himself that he can do it, there is also an athlete whose pregnant wife goes into labor during this time, and there are many, many others, each one with a bit of a story.

Well, eventually Tocacelli has to give up, he is too exhausted to continue the race. There is an end for the athletic performance, as it is for everything. He has to explain this to the kid, who follows him in tears. They will have time enough from now on to make the tour of Rome by streetcar, enjoying the sight. And he, the father, will be allowed now to have a cigarette sometimes, isn't it? Do you think I didn't know that you were smoking also until now, hidden from me in the toilet?

So in the end the marathon has a new winner, who will find out that his wife has just given birth to a few twins. How many, you'll ask. You'll get the answer in the movie.

(Italian Movies)



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